New high school tennis courts and turf fields. A 3-story steel structural frame on the district’s first complete rebuild of a middle school. A renovated cafeteria full of natural light and outdoor views. Elementary school library and collaboration areas that beckon eager young learners.
These were a few of the Bond-related snapshots greeting students and teachers on Sept. 8 as Spring Branch ISD campuses opened for in-person learning. Projects are visibly underway in many locations, and they reflect promising early results from SBISD’s $898.4 million bond. District voters approved the bond three years ago.
“As I drive around the district,” Superintendent Jennifer Blaine, Ed.D., said during a recent Board workshop meeting, “I am so amazed at the transformation that is already happening with our 2017 Bond program.”
“Our first ever middle school, Landrum Middle School, is going to be rebuilt, and it’s looking incredible,” she also said, encouraging others to drive by that campus site, as well as others under construction like Hunters Creek Elementary School. “Really amazing things are happening among our 44 square miles.”
Between March and August, more than $53 million, or about 7 percent of the total construction and renovation portion of the 2017 bond, has been undertaken, the superintendent noted.
“I am very proud of our Planning & Construction staff because they are executing this bond program with fidelity, and both on time and within budget. We are very proud of them,” Dr. Blaine said.
Travis Stanford, who is SBISD Associate Superintendent for Operations, notes that the district approaches bond new construction and major renovation projects in a campus or individual situation basis. (Read more on this district approach below.)
Here are overviews of selected district projects:
Tennis Courts and Turf Fields
During a special-occasion team gathering held Aug. 28 on the U.S. Open-style blue and green courts at the new Memorial High School Tennis Complex, state champion players were the first athletes allowed to swing rackets and volley back and forth.
“I wanted to give them the first opportunity to hit out on the new courts,” Coach Bud Booth said. He invited members of MHS 2018 and 2019 state championship teams to break in the center’s eight new tennis courts and tour the facilities and locker rooms that now stand on the campus’s east side. Spectators get a shaded seating area between the new courts.
The Mustangs two-year team championship is as notable as the shiny new court complex that reflects their accomplishments. Winning state in team tennis twice in a row is a rare Texas achievement.
“They likely don’t think it’s a big deal today, but in five or 10 years they will drive by here and they’ll say, ‘Hey, I was the first to hit on these courts.’” Coach Booth said.
Players rank the new tennis center as one of the best facilities in Texas. “It looks really professional,” senior Yann Zigman said.
“We have a top program here, and now we have facilities that match up to a top state program.” Memorial High’s planned bond work, now underway, is much bigger.
Concrete has just been poured on the west side of the campus for what will become the school’s dramatic four-story, 161,000-square feet academic building, which includes a new cafeteria to better serve student needs.
Students will remain in current campus buildings during the two-year estimated project, where extensive renovation work is planned during summer periods.
Also on Memorial’s west side campus, a new synthetic turf field has been finished. A high school synthetic turf field has also been completed at Spring Woods High School. All four traditional SBISD high schools will have synthetic turf fields installed as part of the 2017 Bond plan.
Despite rapidly changing Gulf Coast weather events, synthetic turf fields allow for immediate practice and play for physical education, band or athletics teams.
New Construction and Major Renovations
The Spring Branch Way How does new construction and major school renovations happen in SBISD? It’s not magic and it takes great planning, but it’s worth it in the end.
SBISD Associate Superintendent for Operations Travis Stanford explains in his own words:
“One of the important things about how Spring Branch approaches the new construction and major renovation projects within the 2017 Bond Program is to customize the individual projects for each situation and campus.
“Spring Branch ISD has district wide Educational and Design Standards that we adhere to, but the district understands that each project is unique and supports different users. It is important that we hear from each of our campuses, as well as from their respective communities.
“We find that this is successfully accomplished by working with campus staff and through the district’s Project Advisory Team, or PAT, initiative. Each new construction and major renovation project has a PAT which is composed of school staff, parents, community and business members, representatives from the local jurisdiction and, in many cases, the end user, our students.
“Over the last two years, the Planning & Construction Department has partnered with at least 10 different PATs to consult, develop and design on major renovations and new campuses. I truly believe that this process and partnership with the PAT, the architects and the district creates an important dynamic which helps to bring about a better finished product.
In summary, “The value and importance of what the PAT brings to the 2017 Bond program is immeasurable,” Associate Superintendent Stanford said.
Steel Frame Rising: Landrum Middle School
The Landrum Middle School replacement project represents the first rebuilding of a middle school in SBISD. When teachers and students returned to the Ridgecrest neighborhood campus recently, many were amazed to see three stories of a new building structure rising on the campus’s north side.
Earlier in August, construction workers and building managers paused for a special occasion barbecue lunch and a traditional, flag-raising ceremony, or “topping off” event, to mark the completion of the steel framing.
Concrete was poured at the site just months ago in April; today exterior sheathing is 80 percent complete, and much other exterior and interior work is underway.
The new middle school is on schedule to open its doors in August 2021. “It’s going to be a dramatic change to the neighborhood, and mark a great moment for the kids and community in that area,” SBISD project manager Kris Drosche said. He predicts that the new middle school will become a local landmark.
Landrum Middle School opened in 1956 and was named for Dr. H.M. Landrum, who was SBISD’s founding superintendent.
The current, 1950s-era middle school serves 1,100 traditional students as well as Kipp Courage students in grades 5-8. All students learning this year in person will remain on campus during construction.
The new, 234,000-square feet building now under construction is located on land between Schwartz Park and the adjacent Lion Lane PreK campus. Noted for highly innovative design, the new middle school includes a 600-seat auditorium, soaring library and cafeteria areas, a “learning stairs” commons, and competition gyms for boys and girls located on the building’s second floor with locker rooms on the first floor.
Open “flex” spaces for learning and collaboration plus sky bridge-style hallways are a few other design highlights. Key features of the older campus – huge oak trees and a historic portrait of Dr. H.M. Landrum – are being preserved.
“I can see the new building here being a place where students and community get all their future needs met,” new Landrum
Principal Roy Moore said. “It will be real exciting for all of us to watch and then come into the new Landrum building.”
Principal Moore has already heard from Landrum alumni who are eager to stride the old hallways one more time before demolition on the old school starts.
Kamran Zarea attended Landrum, and he has now taught there for 18 years, most recently as a robotics and woodshop teacher. As a Landrum graduate and a local resident with neighbors who knew H.M. Landrum personally, he worries sometimes about what the new school will offer.
Zarea, however, is optimistic about the new building.
“I feel like the new Landrum will finally allow our school to keep up with the many developments underway in the original Spring Branch area,” he said, also saying it “will be exciting to walk through the new campus and experience what a modern school looks and feels like.”
He is looking forward to seeing his own new classroom, and he believes Landrum student interest in Career and Technology Education (CTE) matches district need in this critical postsecondary area.
Assistant Principal Samuel Karns notes that the old school is filled with memories for many, but the future also holds great promise. “It’s a 1950s building and built for that era, not 2020. As education has evolved, our learning and building needs have evolved,” he said.
New cafeteria and new spirit: Spring Woods High School
What a difference a well-lit cafeteria with outdoor views can make. That’s one of the observations after the cafeteria renovation and remodeling project at Spring Woods High School opened earlier this month.
Ongoing renovations at this SBISD secondary campus include a renovated library, raised outdoor plaza stage for pep rallies and concerts, way finding for improved directions. and major heating, ventilation and air conditioning project upgrades. Tiger students greeted the new, expansive cafeteria with new exterior views as a refreshing space worth teenage respect.
“Would you believe that in our first 10 days of usage that no single piece of waste has been left behind or on the floor?” asks campus Assistant Principal Denis Blais rhetorically. “Quite an accomplishment for adolescent students!”
The shiny new cafeteria, he notes, is a hub for face-to-face learners to connect at breakfast and lunch. By design, the new library nearby will feature a flexible space for teaching and learning, especially for larger-size classes led by Extended Impact Teachers, a special instructional role.
The new cafeteria is highly functional. Last week, 651 student lunches were issued in just 21 minutes. Improved serving and dining conditions have assisted current guidelines for health and safety by improving student traffic and social distancing.
New libraries and collaboration areas: Elementary schools built for the future
The goal at Cedar Brook Elementary and several other district campuses for new addition and renovation projects is twofold: Bring these campuses up to current district standards and upgrade to function well for the next 20 years.
Results can be seen at three schools – Cedar Brook, Buffalo Creek and Treasure Forest – in the work completed on renovated libraries and collaboration areas. Major interior renovations include work on restrooms, as well as new carpeting and painting throughout.
At Cedar Brook, for example, returning teachers, staff and students returned to find stunning renovated collaboration areas where small group or individualized instruction can occur in spaces filled with bright wall graphics – Africa, Australia and Europe, to name a few – a digital ActivWall, and worktables surrounded by large clerestory windows and big, modern overhead lighting fixtures.
Highlights of renovated libraries at these schools include improved walls, lighting and library shelving, as well as digital ActivWalls. Natural light has increased from new energy efficient skylights.
Cedar Brook’s full renovation project is expansive: a building addition with six new classrooms, a project element still underway; a new science lab, and music rooms. In addition to a library renovation, Cedar Brook has a renovated new main entry.